31 January 2010
I was just reading this article called "The American Conception of National Security and the Beginnings of the Cold War, 1945-48" and was struck by a couple of parallels to modern defense and security analysis.
First, the United States, then as now (and rightly or wrongly), saw the enemy, in this case the Soviet Union, under every nook and cranny. Now, obviously this isn't any strikingly new analysis in light of the Red Scare that soon ensued, but I had never thought as much about how the US saw opportunities for Soviet encroachment in nearly every geopolitical event during that time period: Britain's withdrawal "east of Suez," Gandhi's movement in India, anti-colonial nationalist insurgencies in Indochina and Indonesia, the growing Arab-Zionist imbroglio in Palestine, etc.. I mean, some of the events in which the US saw a Soviet threat made intuitive sense, like the civil war in China (which featured actual communists) and the inroads communists were making in Italy and France. But I couldn't help but think about how we see Al-Qaeda under every rock today--Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Indonesia, et al.
Of course, though, there was (and is) some clear justification for viewing the Soviet Union (and Al Qaeda today) and the major events of the day through this prism. The USSR really did try to exploit and exacerbate situations like these in order to advance its interests, and Al Qaeda really does try to exploit local grievances in places like Yemen in order to further its own objectives. But I think it becomes problematic when you stop looking at geopolitical problems in their own terms (hey, Yemen is fighting a rebellion, has a secessionist movement, its leadership is rather ineffectual, and it's running out of water and oil--oh yeah, there's an Al Qaeda affiliate there too) and start only looking at them through the lens of whatever the grand ideological battle of the day happens to be.
Second, I was struck by the threat inflation and the tendency of national security analysts to ignore evidence that conflicted with preconceived notions and postures. The author of the article makes a convincing case that military planners, once they got it in their head, via the Long Telegram and similar directives, that the Soviet Union was an incredibly formidable and dangerous power that sought worldwide domination and subversion, tended to ignore any signs to the contrary--such as a moderate speech on the UN by Stalin, a Soviet press not entirely hostile to the US, diplomatic and territorial concessions, or rather clear and glaring military weaknesses. This mindset created its own momentum which led the US to pursue fairly maximalist anti-Soviet policies, the Soviets responded in kind, etc. etc.
Sound depressingly familiar?
Here is contemporary liberalism in a nutshell: No need to consider costs as well as benefits. No acknowledgment of competing goods or coexisting rights. No appreciation of the constraints of public sentiment or the challenges of organizational complexity. No sense that not every part of society can be treated dogmatically according to certain simple propositions. Just the assertion that something must be done because it is in some abstract way “the right thing.”
30 January 2010
Once again, the US is planning arms sales to Taiwan. Oh no! The Chinese are pissed!
I knew the US helped supply the USSR with supplies during WW2, but didn't know we supplied them with (on average) 1/2 lb of food per day per Soviet soldier for every day of the war, largely in the form of Spam. True story.
On a more downbeat note, Obama talked about appropriating money for COBRA. Are Duke and Snake Eyes aware of this? Is he in league with Destro?
29 January 2010
Via War is Boring, I see that China is putting artillery on cargo ships. (The picture on the left showcases this.) China Defense gives some possible explanations.
The second explanation seems even more bizarre: "The PRC propaganda machine is attempting to portray preparations for an impending invasion in order to deceive and/or intimidate potential target nations." Again, this could only mean Taiwan. It should be obvious to the PRC leadership, however, that attempts to intimidate Taiwanese voters tend, instead, to piss them off. Also, there is less reason to invade Taiwan now than at any point from 1996-2008. The current president is anti-independence, as is the legislature.
28 January 2010
Thinking about Zinn's legacy, which has been written about by some other commentators at length in light of his passing, I think two of its most positive elements a) his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement and b) the simple fact that he introduced many Americans to the fact that everything they learned in history class may not have been entirely accurate or presented without bias.
With respect to the actual substance of A People's History and his other works--as a card-carrying member of the center-left and friend of capitalism, I am decidedly less enthusiastic. This essay gets at much of what I disagree with in his work.
One other major problem I found with some of it was his pacifism. As a "national security progressive" and someone who is generally skeptical of most calls for war, I think that pacifists and proponents of complete nonviolence offer a powerful critique of militarism and the jingoistic hawkishness that surrounds much of our national security discourse. I think the fact that Zinn's pacifism came from a WW2 bombardier lends further credibility to his position.
He was, I think, wrong on many issues though. Nonviolence simply isn't a viable solution in some cases and just war theory offers a middle ground between pacifism and unrestrained violence that progressives can embrace. Zinn's condemnations of WW2 and the first Gulf War are then, for example, wrongheaded (although his critique of say, terror bombing in the former are not).
His pacifism also becomes intellectually shallow in some of his work. Specifically, I remember in his discussion of the Clinton Administration in A People's History, he portrays the administration as basically a 1990s version of Genghis Kahn's hordes, terrorizing Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, without providing any real context as to why those wars were fought.
Overall, though, I would say that Zinn's legacy has been more positive than negative, and he is not someone the left should disown. However, a critique of his work should serve to solidify liberals' commitment toward just war as a last resort and regulated capitalism.
27 January 2010
John McCain said the following after the SOTU:
In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. I am immensely proud of, and thankful for, every American who wears the uniform of our country, especially at a time of war, and I believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy.This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our armed forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.
I recently mentioned in passing that the Chinese government does have experience with some degree of autonomy for provinces, notably Hong Kong and Macau (though not the supposedly autonomous provinces of Tibet or Xinjiang). It turns out that the people of Hong Kong are now demanding a much greater form of real autonomy than they presently have.
Soldiers surrounded the Colombo hotel where Sri Lanka's opposition leader was staying Wednesday, hours after President Mahinda Rajapaksa was declared the winner of the country's first peacetime election in more than two decades.
Rajapaksa's opponent, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, said he did not accept the results of the election and is contesting the result.
There was "obvious rigging," Fonseka said from his hotel.
Officials results of the hard-fought race were not due until Wednesday afternoon, but Rajapaksa was said to have garnered more than 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.
The government said the presence of the soldiers and commandos, some of whom had their faces covered, outside the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel was a precaution.
They did not intend to take Fonseka into custody, but were looking for army deserters who were holed up inside, the government said.
As I've said before, it is rather difficult in these particular environs for a man, who solicits customers for a prostitute or a brothel, usually in return for a share of the earnings.
26 January 2010
A college student returning to school after the winter break fell victim to a prank at Philadelphia's airport by a Transportation Security Administration worker who pretended to plant a plastic bag of white powder in her carry-on luggage.
a) the US "could have nuked Germany" during WW2
b) the US never really seriously considered nuking Germany
Given that the first nuclear test was in the summer of '45, after VE Day had already taken place, I was skeptical of this person's argument. Could any reader help me out with this?
25 January 2010
Anyway, if you watched the PBS Newshour tonight, you already saw this. But I had to put this on the blog. This is a really popular Russian pop song called "I Want Someone Like Putin." When I first saw this, it kind of struck me as Stalin-era cult of personality stuff updated for the 21st century. But then I remembered this sort of stuff from 2008 (seems to be a correlation between horrible songs and losing here). And don't forget to Crank that Mike Gravel!
Anyway, here's the video:
And the English lyrics:
My boyfriend is in trouble once again:
Got in a fight, got drunk on something nasty
I've had enough and I chased him away
And now I want a man like Putin
One like Putin, full of strength
One like Putin, who won't be a drunk
One like Putin, who wouldn't hurt me
One like Putin, who won't run away!
I've seen him on the news last night
He was telling us that the world has come to crossroads
With one like him, it's easy to be home and out
And now I want a man like Putin
One like Putin, full of strength
One like Putin, who won't be a drunk
One like Putin, who wouldn't hurt me
One like Putin, who won't run away!
In the past year or so, I have become something of a foodie (although my recipe blogging posts may not be indicative of that). However, in the very recent past, I was known to eat all sorts of crap food. During my first stint in grad school, I frequented Taco Bell with alarming regularity (although I never attempted the Taco Bell diet). I was able to remain relatively athletic and thin due mainly to intense exercise and high metabolism.
I certainly ate really crappy school lunches pretty much everyday during middle and high school (I think Mom packed my lunches in elementary school) and then graduated to eating crappy food from the university dining halls as an undergrad. I also ate the school lunches on a regular basis during my two years as a public school teacher.
Since my conversion to a more nutritious eater, I find myself quite disturbed by what we feed our children. The school where I worked had Papa John's pizza EVERY DAY, and a daily line dedicated solely to fried breaded chicken patty sandwiches and hamburgers. All of this is to say that I am quite fascinated by this blog, where an anonymous teacher has undertaken to eat the school lunch everyday where she works and comment upon it.
I think that better school nutrition could be a relatively non-controversial (well, it may be controversial with the students...I dunno) way to address some educational problems. I can't imagine that a less crap-laden diet wouldn't improve student performance at least marginally. Not to mention the public health benefits.
24 January 2010
Normally Slim does these, but I'm rather proud of this one. It's ridiculously simple, and it makes one of the boogey-man foods of my childhood rather tasty. (Credit for the recipe goes to the best food educator I've ever seen, Alton Brown.)
23 January 2010
22 January 2010
21 January 2010
Sorry blogging has been so light from my end--I'm out of town for the rest of the week.
Today's QOTD comes from Dave Brockington over at LGM:
The U.S. Senate sucks. As an institution...I tend to treat the U.S. Senate in a breath normally reserved for the House of Lords. It's bad enough in terms of representation that the institution is highly skewed, and the median voter as represented in the Senate is considerably to the right of the median voter as represented in the House (or in the general population).
However, to add the tacit requirement of a super majority on top of this already skewed pattern of representation is to add insult to (small d) democratic injury.
There's nothing hatred about what we're doing," he said. "I don't hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here's a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like."Lewis said he wants to emphasize fundamental basketball instead of "street-ball" played by "people of color." He pointed out recent incidents in the NBA, including Gilbert Arenas' indefinite suspension after bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room, as examples of fans' dissatisfaction with the way current professional sports are run."Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?" he said. "That's the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction."
20 January 2010
19 January 2010
I know that Martha Coakley was a terrible candidate, but I was really annoyed by the fact that the most frequent thing brought up about her in the media was the Curt Schilling anecdote. We have elevated the "likeability" and "having a beer with the candidate" factor to absurd proportions in recent elections (see Bush, George W) and, as a result, we are getting absurd electoral contests.
Call me a curmudgeon, but I could give a damn less how much I relate to Candidate X or whether she bails hay or drives a pickup truck or castrates cattle or whatever. I'll vote for a candidate who's a complete prick if they'll make a concerted effort to produce sound public policy (see, for a poor example, Scott Brown's attempt to allow hospital employees to deny emergency contraception). So, congrats Mass. We probably won't get climate legislation or financial regulatory reform because you liked that naked guy's truck. Who knows about health care (don't get me started on Brown's absurd position on this).
I'm consoling myself with this video tonight, but now even it kind of makes me sad since the Chargers are out =/
OK so Haiti is 700 miles away from the US and the earthquake that hit last week was a big surprise to everyone… however, I still find it very upsetting that the United States could not mobilize more support more quickly. I do not believe that the military, Congress, or anybody else (except maybe Pat Robertson) is intentionally dragging their feet. I think everyone is working as quickly as they can, but the problem is that the US does not have effective mechanisms for responding to humanitarian crises. It’s been more than a week and there are still logistical problems delivering aid. I know that the port in Port-au-Prince has been damaged, and the airport can only handle such much air traffic at a time, and there are issues of security, but the US should be much better at this than it is. We had similar issues after Hurricane Katrina and our response is only marginally more efficient this time around. There is absolutely no way the US can keep on being a world leader if we cannot assist disaster victims in our hemisphere, let alone just a few hundred miles from our shore.
18 January 2010
"Within the gates | ere a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows | where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within."
Don’t donate goods. Donating stuff instead of money is a serious problem in emergency relief. Only the people on the ground know what’s actually necessary; those of us in the rest of the world can only guess. Some things, like summer clothes and expired medicines are going to be worthless in Haiti. Other stuff, like warm clothes and bottled water may be helpful to some people in some specific ways. Separating the useful from the useless takes manpower that can be doing more important work. It’s far better to give money so that organizations can buy the things they know they need.
Don’t go to Haiti. It’s close to the US, it’s a disaster area, and we all want to help. However, it’s dangerous right now and they don’t need “extra hands”. The people who are currently useful are people with training in medicine and emergency response. If all you can contribute is unskilled labor, stay home. There is no shortage of unskilled labor in Haiti, and Haitians will be a lot more committed than you are to the rebuilding process.
And, from the comments:
I’d add – Don’t adopt a Haitian Child. After disasters there is often a heartfelt desire and a rush to adopt “Orphans”.
The problem is they are often not orphans – and even when they are, where possible it’s better for then to be cared for by extended family or adopted within their communities.At times of disaster when families are trying to reunite and child protection systems are weaker is not the time to “fast-track” international adoptions and remove the important safeguards that should normally be in place to protect the best interest of the child.
Most of us have no first-hand experience with this, and sometimes it can be very counterintuitive how to help best. (As always, "common sense" is nothing of the sort.) Read the whole piece.
… it is known publicly that Trig Palin indeed has Down Syndrome. Science has no way to undo this condition, which is the result of an extra chromosome; but God can. When Trig Palin is found to be miraculously healed, everyone but the most hardened atheist will have to acknowledge God’s Majesty!
If it works, I certainly will! And you'll abandon your faith if it doesn't, won't you proprietors of Pray4Trig.com?
From Weber's Politics as a Vocation. Reading this, I could not help but think of Joe Lieberman:
Vanity is a very widespread quality and perhaps nobody is entirely free from it. In academic and scholarly circles, vanity is a sort of occupational disease, but precisely with the scholar, vanity--however disagreeably it may express itself--is relatively harmless...With the politician the case is quite different. He works with the striving for power as an unavoidable means. Therefore, 'power instinct,' as is usually said, belongs indeed to his normal qualities. The sin against the lofty spirit of his vocation, however, begins where this striving for power ceases to be objective and becomes purely personal self-intoxication, instead of exclusively entering the service of 'the cause.' For ultimately there are only two kinds of deadly sins in the field of politics: lack of objectivity and--often but not always identical with it--irresponsibility. Vanity, the need personally to stand in the foreground as clearly as possible, strongly tempts the politician to commit one or both of these sins. This is more truly the case as the demagogue is compelled to count upon 'effect.' He therefore is constantly in danger of becoming an actor as well as taking lightly the responsibility for the outcome of his actions and of being concerned merely with the 'impression' he makes. His lack of objectivity tempts him to strive for the glamorous semblance of power rather than for actual power. His irresponsibility, however, suggests that he enjoy power merely for power's sake without a substantive purpose. Although, or rather just because, power is the unavoidable means, and striving for power is one of the driving forces of all politics, there is no more harmful distortion of political force than the parvenu-like braggart with power, and the vain self-reflection in the feeling of power, and in general every worship of power per se. The mere 'power politician' may get strong effects, but actually his work leads nowhere and is senseless. (Among us, too, an ardently promoted cult seeks to glorify him.) In this, the critics of 'power politics' are absolutely right. From the sudden inner collapse of typical representatives of this mentality, we can see what inner weakness and impotence hides behind this boastful but entirely empty gesture. It is a product of a shoddy and superficially blase attitude towards the meaning of human conduct; and it has no relation whatsoever to the knowledge of tragedy with which all action, but especially political action, is truly interwoven.
17 January 2010
China is apparently feeling a bit better about Xinjiang, as it is allowing text messaging and some internet there again. Of course, being China, the internet is still highly restricted-in Xinjiang, right now, all that can be accessed is China Daily and a few other websites.
From a message board commenter:
Pfft, just realize Favre is truly the All-American QB.
Before each game he takes a Prilosec OTC or two to make sure he doesn't get heartburn while he's out there having fun and calling plays.
Underneath his pants are not pads, but American made Five Star Wrangler jeans with each star being a Hail Mary he's recited in the back to have God watch over not only himself, his team, his family and the opposition, but to also have it snow that much harder in Green Bay.
When he's out there, the man's just in the huddle with his left hand outstretched, using his right hand to draw out plays..telling Percy to run a hook route to the stop sign and to have Berrian run all the way to the street light before cutting it back towards the red house on the left.
If he's out there "running up the score", its only because he's trying to make sure that thru his play, America can rest assure that while she may be down, he is still going to perservere and overcome his struggles, which in turn motivates America to make a change and renew her hopes and dreams.
Face it guys, Brett Favre = America.
Another easy, cheap, delicious, and filling recipe. This one is pretty packed with protein for those of you who are, like me, trying to build some muscle.
some olive oil
about one pound of chicken breasts or thighs, boneless or de-boned, cut up into chunks
about a handful of mushrooms, sliced
bell peppers: 1-2 green and/or red, diced
about 1 head of brocolli, sliced up into florets
3/4 c chicken stock
1 small can of diced tomatoes
1/2 to 1 c creamy peanut butter
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes
Saute the chicken in the olive oil--don't worry about completely cooking yet, but make sure it's white. Go ahead and throw in your onions, peppers, mushrooms, and spices. Cook until onions are clear. Throw in the brocolli and cook it for just a little bit.
Now it's liquid time. Pour in your tomatoes and let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is already cooked. Now it's time to finish the sauce. Stir in your peanut butter a little bit at a time until you get a consistency that you like.
I'm not sure if this is more of an Asian-style or African-style dish. All I know is that it's awesome.
I think you could probably replace the peanut butter with another kind of nut butter here, too, if you wanted.
In Chile, it looks like there's a decent chance that the right may come to power for the first time since the days of Pinochet, under the leadership of billionaire Sebastian Pinera. It's unclear to me why the center-left Concertacion coalition would be voted out, given the high level of success they have enjoyed under its control and the high popularity of the departing President Bachelet, other than the fact that they simply ran a lackluster candidate in former President Eduardo Frei. Hopefully, this won't be similar to the 2000 US election, where a pretty successful governing center-left party is voted out for no particular reason by a non-threatening right candidate who proceeds to steer the country straight off a cliff.
In Ukraine, the candidate accused of chicanery by the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, seems poised for a victory over the now-much-less-heralded former heroine of that revolution (and hottest world leader), Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Current President and Orange Revolution figurehead Viktor Yushchenko had a very lackluster showing in the first round of votes and didn't even make it into the runoff. Most of the analysis I've read on this election suggests that the predictions of a drastic pro-Russia shift in Ukrainian foreign policy following a Yanukovych victory are probably overblown. For instance, one of the first things that he is expected to do is re-negotiate energy deals with the Kremlin that are seen as unfavorable to Ukraine. At the same time, Tymoshenko has recently made overtures to Russia on some issues.
15 January 2010
I had the opportunity to read “The Jungle Book” recently and there was a few short paragraphs at the very end of it that seemed very pertinent to the current conflict in Afghanistan. To set up the scene: Afghanistan’s Amir has come to the palace of India’s Viceroy to review his armed services. The Amir has brought one of his friends; a chief of one of his country’s many tribes. After watching thousands of men and animals march in unison, the chief inquired of one of the Indian officers how it was that the animals marched with the same precision as the men. The Indian officer responded:
"They obey, as the men do. Mule, horse, elephant, or bullock, he obeys his driver, and the driver his sergeant, and the sergeant his lieutenant, and the lieutenant his captain, and the captain his major, and the major his colonel, and the colonel his brigadier commanding three regiments, and the brigadier the general, who obeys the Viceroy, who is the servant of the Empress. Thus it is done."
"Would it were so in Afghanistan!" said the chief, "for there we obey only our own wills."
"And for that reason," said the native officer, twirling his mustache, "your Amir whom you do not obey must come here and take orders from our Viceroy."
My point is that I’m starting to doubt that US has the ability to create any type of stable central government in Afghanistan. I know that there are many ways in which US involvement in this country is different than the machinations of the British or the Russians, but Afghanistan itself has not really changed in all this time. Kipling wrote this in 1897, and Afghanistan’s central government still cannot get the recognition of all the tribes and factions. I’m starting to get convinced that the nation-state model just isn’t going to work. Even the Taliban, as brutal as they were, still could not keep control of the whole country. I don’t know what a solution in Afghanistan is going to look like, but I don’t think it’s going to look like a nation-state.
I was vaguely aware that there was a rightwing push against James Cameron's Avatar for its leftish political viewpoint, but this article describes it in more detail. It seems like pretty much every time the far right really gets its knickers in a twist over some movie it turns out to be an overwhelming success. Not so much with the movies that the right embraces.
For what it's worth, I haven't even seen Avatar yet, and I can't really get that excited about it. I would, I think, enjoy seeing it in IMAX, but we don't have one of those theaters here. I did watch Up in the Air and The Road recently. I would recommend the former, but not the latter. The Road was very well made and well acted, but I just can't bring myself to recommend it to anyone because of how soul-crushingly depressing it is. For some reason, I found it to be even more bleak than the novel.